Essays in Islamic Sufi-ism (Sufism)

by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian & Dr. Basharat Ahmad [Compiled by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad]

Philosophy of Sufi-ism [Sufism] (Tasawwuf) in Islam by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian

The Meaning of Islam and Muslim:

Before getting into any other discussion, it is essential to set forth some basic realities regarding the religion of Islam, the means for achieving these truths and the fruits of adherence to them. This is essential because the understanding of many fine and subtle points is critically dependent upon a clear comprehension of these issues. Many doubts and uncertainties that beset my co-religionists are directly the result of not pondering over the complete and perfect reality of Islam, adherence to it and its outcome. I am convinced that if they study carefully the reality of Islam and its associated arguments and then read my answers in reply to their objections, they would be relieved of their doubts and apprehensions. Likewise, non-Muslim critics of Islam can benefit greatly from this exposition as it can enable them to understand the real meaning and signs of a true religion.

The lexical meaning in Arabic of Islam is paying the price in advance for a thing, or to delegate one’s affair to someone, or to seek peace or to give up a matter or an enmity.

The technical meanings of Islam are those indicated in the following verse:

“Nay, whoever submits himself whole-heartedly to Allah, and he is a doer of good to others, he shall have his reward from his Lord. And there is no fear for such people, nor do they grieve.” (The Holy Quran, 2:112)

This means that a Muslim is one who commits his entire being in the way of God, the Most High. That is, he dedicates himself completely to Allah, for the pursuance of His will and for the attainment of His pleasure. He then devotes himself to doing good deeds for the sake of God, and employs all his practical faculties in His path. In short, his life is entirely for Allah in both belief and deed.

In terms of belief, it means that he must truly consider his entire being to have been created in order to know God, to obey, love and adore Him, and to gain His pleasure. In terms of deeds, it means that he, only for the sake of Allah, performs acts of true virtue with all the power and God-given faculties at his command. Further, he does this with such fervour, zeal and God awareness as if he is seeing the face of his real Master in the mirror of his obedience.

The meaning of the rest of the verse is that only those people are deserving of a reward whose beliefs and deeds are founded on a personal love of God and for whom the performance of good deeds has become a second nature. Such people have no fear nor grief for they have achieved the state of salvation. In reality, the state which must be called salvation, success and deliverance is the state in which a man is in full accord with Allah, by believing in His person and attributes. His will is in complete conformity with God’s will and all his joy is in His obedience. In this state, good deeds are performed by him not through hard effort but for the joy and delight they give. In the next world, all perceptions and feelings are in actuality only a projection of the symptoms of a person’s state in this world, which will take on a physical manifestation. Thus, the heavenly life begins in this very world, and the torment of hell, too, has its roots in the filth and the heedless existence of this world.

Complete Devotion of Life in God’s Way:

By carefully reflecting on the above referred verse, it would be apparent to any intelligible person that the real essence of Islam can only be established by devoting one’s entire being, with all its inner and outer faculties, to God and His way, thereby, returning to the Real Giver all that was received in trust from Him. It is not only through belief, but also in terms of deeds that the full meaning of Islam must be manifested. That is, the person claiming to be a follower of Islam must prove that his hands, feet, heart and mind, his sense, reason, anger, mercy, gentleness and knowledge; all his spiritual and physical powers, his honour and property, his rest and comfort, and all that he has, from the hair of his head to the nails of his toes, both outwardly and inwardly, so much so that his intentions, the fears in his heart, and the feelings in his soul — all these have become as obedient to God as his limbs are obedient to his control. In brief, it must be established that he has progressed to the stage of righteousness where whatever he has truly belongs to God and all his limbs and faculties are so engaged in the service of God as if they were the limbs of God.

A reflection on these verses also makes abundantly clear that a life devoted in the service of God, which is the reality of Islam, has two aspects. First, God alone must be considered to be worthy of worship, the sole objective of life and the most beloved. None should share with Him the totality of a person’s devotion, love and fear, and on Him alone should one depend. His celebration, glorification and service must come from one’s heart and soul. The prescribed manner of His worship, all his commandments, prohibitions and matters destined by Him must be whole-heartedly accepted and practised with humility. In addition, one must seek to master the scientific truths which create an understanding of His vast powers and the eminence of His domain and which are a powerful guide for recognising His favours and blessings.

The second aspect of a life devoted to God is its dedication to the service, sympathy and help of His creatures, the bearing of their burdens, and the true sharing of their grief. Hardship is borne to provide relief, and inconvenience suffered to give comfort to others.

This discourse shows that the reality of Islam is very high. The honourable title of “a follower of Islam” is in actuality reserved only for a person who turns over to God the entirety of his being inclusive of all his powers, desires, and will and who, setting aside all egotistical trappings, sets himself to work in the path of God. Therefore, a person can only be called a Muslim, in the real sense, when a mighty revolution overtakes his life of negligence and obliterates once and for all every trace and passion of his lower self. After this death of the lower self, a new life of “doing good for the sake of Allah” is born within him — a life so impeccable that it consists of nothing but obedience to the Creator and sympathy for His creation.

Obedience to God and Service to his Creatures:

Obedience to the Creator must be such that dishonour and degradation are readily acceptable for the sake of evidencing God’s power, glory and unity; a thousand deaths are of no consequence to keep alive the idea of His oneness, and the one hand is happily willing to cut off the other in the execution of His orders. Love for the greatness of His commands and the desire for attaining His pleasure makes sin detestable as if it were an all-consuming fire or a fatal poison or lightening that reduces everything to ashes, and hence a thing to be avoided at all cost. In short, all individual desires are subordinated to His will; infliction of mortal wounds are willingly borne to connect with Him and all human ties are made severable as proof of this connection.

Service of Allah’s creation must be such that the needy and those made dependent on others under God’s scheme of things are helped, selflessly, and solely for the sake of Allah, with heartfelt sympathy and all the God given powers. This striving for amelioration must be directed at improving their life in this world and the next.

This devotion in the way of God reaches its fulfilment only when all the faculties are so coloured with Divine attributes that they become merely like an instrument of God through which divine acts are manifested from time to time, or like a clear mirror in which the perfect image of the divine will can be seen. When obedience and service in the way of God reaches this perfection, then, by virtue of the Divine colouring, it becomes correct to say, in the sense of the unity of attributes (wahadat ash-shuhud), about the limbs and organs of a man of this description, that, for example, these eyes are the eyes of God, this tongue is the tongue of God, this hand is the hand of God, these ears are the ears of God, and these feet are the feet of God. In the divine path, the limbs and powers of such a person are charged by the will of God and become an image of His purpose and, therefore, deserve to be called His manifestation. The reason is that, just as a person’s limbs act in conformity with his will and intent, likewise, when the perfect man reaches this stage, he acquires complete conformity with the will and intent of God. God’s greatness, unity, kingship and lordship, and every wish and command, are as dear to him as they are to God Himself. Hence, this great obedience and service for the sake of God, filled with love and affection and replete with sincerity and piety, is the real substance of Islam, its reality and gist. It is achievable only after annihilating the baser self, desires and intentions.

Stages of Spiritual Progress Fana, Baqa, Liqa:

It should also be remembered here that the verse mentioned above, i.e.,

“Nay whoever submits himself whole-heartedly to Allah, and he is a doer of good to others, he shall have his reward from his Lord; and there is no fear for such people, nor do they grieve.” (The Holy Quran, 2:112)

refers to the three stages of perfect spiritual obedience: fana (annihilation), baqa (continuance) and liqa (meeting with God). As described above, the phrase

“submits himself whole-heartedly to Allah”

gives the lesson that the entirety of a person’s being with all his faculties must be handed over to God and dedicated in His way. This is the state which is called fana. It has been so named by spiritual scientists because of the kind of death (of the lower self) that takes place when a person, acting according to the dictates of this verse, hands over his whole being with all its faculties to God by devoting it to His way, and refrains completely from the urges and comforts of his lower self.

The words of the verse immediately after,

“and he is a doer of good to others”,

refers to the stage of baqa. This is the stage when a person, after a complete negation of the self, begins to act under Divine motivation and instigation, and after the cessation of all baser movements is set into motion under Divine inspiration. This is that second life which should be appropriately termed baqa.

The words of the verse after this,

“he shall have his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for such people, nor do they grieve”,

affirms the certainty of receiving reward, and negates the presence of fear and grief. This is a reference to the state of liqa. In this state a person achieves that high status in knowledge, conviction, trust and love, where the reward for his sincerity, faith and fidelity is no longer mere imagination or conjecture, but is as certain, manifest, and perceptible, as if he had received it. He acquires such a faith in the existence of God as if he can see Him. All fears about the future vanish and no trace is left of any past or present grief. He perceives the existence of every spiritual blessing. This state, which is clear of all murkiness, safe from every doubt, and free from the fear of the unknown, is termed liqa. The word muhsin (doer of good) in this verse corroborates this description of the state of liqa, because as explained by the Holy Prophet Muhammad ihsan denotes that perfect state in which man forms such a close relationship with God during worship that it is as if he were seeing Him.

The rank of liqa is fully attained by the spiritual wayfarer when the divine hue conceals and covers the human element under it as completely as fire hides the colour of molten iron, so that to outward appearance there is nothing but fire. This is the stage at which some spiritual students, when they reached it, have erred and mistaken shuhud (the presence of the Divine Being) as wujud (unity with the Divine Being). To those saints who reached this rank, or those who attained some measure of it, certain spiritual scholars have applied the term ‘sons of God’. This analogy has been made because such persons have completely embraced Divine attributes, and just as a son bears some resemblance in appearance and features to his father, they too, by reflection, bear some resemblance to God’s beautiful attributes in which they are moulded. Although such a term is not explicitly used in the language of the shariah, the spiritual men have, in fact, deduced it from the Holy Quran. As Allah, the Glorious says:

“Remember Allah as you remember your fathers; nay, with an even stronger remembrance.” (The Holy Quran, 2:200)

It is obvious that if the shariah had meant to forbid the metaphorical use of such terms then God would have kept His word free from the kind of expression from which the legality of such usage could be deduced.

Miracles of the Holy Prophet (pbuh):

At this stage of liqa, a man can sometimes perform feats which seem to be beyond human strength and have the appearance of divine power. For instance, our Leader and Master, the head of the apostles, the last of the Prophets, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, hurled a fistful of pebbles at the disbelievers during the Battle of Badr. He threw that fistful not accompanied with any prayer but by his spiritual strength. However, this act manifested Divine power and had a miraculous effect on the eyes of the enemy forces. It was as if they had been blinded; confusion and panic overtook their ranks and they started to flee as if they had lost all their senses. Allah, the Glorious refers to this miracle in the following verse :

“You (O Prophet) did not throw when you threw, but it was Allah Who threw.” (The Holy Quran, 8:17)

i.e., Divine power was invisibly working behind it and it could not be the work of human power.

Likewise, another miracle of the Holy Prophet, the splitting of the moon, came about through the same Divine power. There was no prayer accompanying it, for it took place merely by the pointing of a finger which was charged with Divine power. There are many other miracles of this kind which the Holy Prophet performed merely through personal power, without any accompanying prayer. On several occasions, by dipping his fingers into a small amount of water contained in only a bowl, he increased it so much that all the troops, camels and horses drank of it and still its quantity did not diminish. By the blessing of his hand, he mended the eyes of soldiers whose pupils had fallen out due to injury in battle. He performed many other similar acts with the strength of his personal power which had a hidden Divine power mixed in it.

The Erroneous View of the Christians:

If today’s philosophers and naturalists deny these miracles, it is because they are handicapped in their ability to recognise the spiritual status in which Divine Power is projected into a person. So, if they make mockery of such issues it is only a reflection of their infantile spiritual development and lack of spiritual maturity. Not only are they impaired in their own spiritual condition but are also content to die in a state of impairment. Even more lamentable is the condition of the Christians who on hearing of some similar miraculous acts of Jesus Christ, though of a lesser degree, take it as evidence of his divinity. They claim that Christ’s bringing to life of the paralysed and the healing of the lepers and cripples was an act of his own power and not the result of prayer. This argument is then given to substantiate the claim that he was truly the son of God and, in fact, God.

Holy Prophet’s Miracles of Empowerment Greater than All:

Those putting forward this argument do not realise that if these things could turn a human being into God, then the Holy Prophet Muhammad has a better claim to divinity because his extraordinary feats of empowerment far exceed those of Prophet Jesus. Not only did the Holy Prophet perform these extraordinary feats of empowerment himself, but he has also left behind a legacy of such miracles to continue in his followers till the Day of Judgement. The miraculous events of this legacy have been observed in every age occurring according to the needs of the time, and will undoubtedly continue to occur till the end of this world. The degree to which reflected divine power has been received by the pious saints of the Muslim ummah (community) is unmatched by any other community. Hence, it is absurd to call someone God or son of God on the basis of such miracles. Otherwise, there would be no limit to the number of gods.

Miracle of Empowerment is Lesser in Degree than the Non-delegated Powers of Allah:

It must be noted here that these extraordinary feats of empowerment, although from God, are in no way equal to acts of God manifested by Him directly without the involvement of an intermediate agency. Neither would such equality be proper. Accordingly, when a Prophet or wali (friend of Allah) performs a miracle, unassisted by prayer, which is beyond the power of human stratagem or contrivance, such an act is always inferior to an announced act of God manifested with His complete power. In other words, miracles of empowerment in comparison with acts performed by God without an agency have some imperfection, so that, even those with superficial vision may not confuse them with acts of creation. Thus, the staff of Moses, despite several transformations into a serpent remained a staff. Similarly, the birds of Jesus, despite their flight, which is confirmed by the Holy Quran, remained objects of clay. Nowhere has God mentioned that they came alive.

Recipients of the Stage of Liqa Perform Miracles of Empowerment:

The extraordinary feats of empowerment performed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad are the greatest manifestation of Divine power, because the person of Holy Prophet was the highest and most complete example of Divine reflection. We are unable to associate these miracles to any level of humanness. However, it is our belief that even here there is a definite difference, though hidden, between the action of Allah and His Prophet.

Our objective with this discussion is to point out that during periods of ecstasy in the stage of liqa a person does perform divine acts. Anybody who spends a portion of his life in the close company of a person who has achieved the state of liqa will definitely observe some of these extraordinary acts of empowerment. Such a person, during states of ecstasy, reflects some attributes of Allah to the extent that his mercy becomes the mercy of Allah, his wrath is the wrath of Allah, and a number of times he commands a thing to happen, unaccompanied by any prayer, and it does. If he looks at someone with anger, some calamity befalls that person, and if he looks mercifully at someone, that individual becomes the object of God’s mercy. In the manner that Allah says “Be”, and the desired event occurs without any opposition so too his saying “Be” in the state of ecstasy produces the desired effect. As I have stated, the reason for these extraordinary events of empowerment is that such a person, due to the intensity of his relationship with God, becomes coloured, by reflection, in His colour and the Divine illumination envelopes him permanently. The beloved God lifts the intervening veil and embraces him because of the intense intimacy of their relationship. And the way He is blessed Himself, He blesses his words and actions, his food and dress, his dwelling and his time and every requisite associated with him. Then everything that comes in contact with him, without his praying for it, becomes blessed. There is blessing in his house, the threshold of his doors are filled with blessings and blessings are showered at the doorway of his house and their entrances are blessed. He experiences these blessings all the time and smells their fragrance. When he travels, God is with him with all His blessings, and when he returns home, he brings a flood of heavenly light with him. Thus, he is a wonderful person whose real substance is known to none except God.

Experience of the Status of Baqa and Liqa:

The stage of fana-fil-Allah (self-annihilation in the way of Allah), is called fana by the sufis and is known as istiqamit (uprightness) in Quranic terminology. After this stage becomes a reality of a person’s life in line with the meaning of the Quranic verse,

“Nay, whoever submits himself whole-heartedly to Allah,” (The Holy Quran, 2:12),

the stages of baqa and liqa follow without intermission. The condition precedent for passage into the state of baqa, however, is that the state of fana be fully established and this does not happen unless a person has acquired complete release from his own nature, desire and will, and made total obedience to God his natural instinct. Thus, the evolution of the state of baqa occurs only when all the formal vestiges of submission disappear and the verdant and fresh foliage of true submission sprouts with fervour from the heart and one truly begins to consider all his possessions as belonging to God. Just as other people derive pleasure by fulfilling their desires, this person derives his pleasure from worship and remembrance of Allah. The desire of self-indulgence is replaced by the desire to seek the pleasure of Allah.

When this condition of baqa becomes firmly established and permeates the being of the spiritual wayfarer, a spiritual light is perceived to descend from heaven which lifts all veils (between man and God), and a sweet and pleasurable feeling of love is felt in the heart which was not there before. A feeling of serenity, satisfaction and delight descends upon the heart akin to when one meets a dear and long lost friend suddenly and embraces him. Communication from the Almighty, which is bright and clear, pleasurable and blessed, meaningful and fragrant, and bearing good news is revealed at all times and brings elation and tranquillity like a cool, gentle and fragrant breeze which has passed over a garden in the early hours of the morning. Man is drawn to God in such a manner that without His love and contemplation, life is meaningless. Not only is he committed to sacrifice his wealth, honour, offspring, and all his material possessions, but, in his heart, has already done so. He is pulled to God with a tremendous force that belies understanding and he finds his soul lit by spiritual light like the brightness of the day. He experiences overwhelming love, sincerity and truthfulness within himself and feels every moment as if God Almighty has alighted on his soul. When this condition is felt with all its signs, then rejoice and thank the truly beloved God, because this is the ultimate stage called liqa.

At this stage of spiritual development, a person feels as if he has been washed with an abundance of pure waters, and recreated after being cleansed totally of selfish interests to the minutest fabric of his soul. He senses the throne of the Nourisher unto Perfection of all the universe has been laid inside him and the shining face of the Glorious and Holy God, with all its charm, beauty and attraction is always in front of him.

Striving of the Spiritual Wayfarer is only up to the Stage of Fana:

It should be noted that the stages of baqa and liqa cannot be achieved by effort and are, in fact, endowed. Human endeavour can take a person only up to the stage of fana where the journey of all the righteous persons and spiritual wayfarers ends as the limits of human capabilities have been reached. And when the purified souls reach this stage of fana, it is the pattern of Allah, and has always been so, that the winds of His bounty blow and propel the traveller to the stages of baqa and liqa. With this research, it is evident that all the difficulties and deprivations of this journey are up to the stage of fana and beyond it effort, endeavour and hard work are not factors for further advancement. In fact, it is the pure love that develops in the stage of fana for the Supreme and Generous God which causes a spark from the love of God to automatically fall on the devotee and this is referred to as the stages of baqa and liqa. And when the love of Allah descends upon the love of the servant, then with the union of both these loves, the bright and complete reflection of the Holy Spirit (Ruh-al Qudus) is generated in the heart of that person. At the stage of liqa, the light of that Holy Spirit is very prominent and the unusual feats of empowerment that we have discussed earlier are manifested by these people. This light of the Holy Spirit is always with them and resides within them. They do not separate from it under any condition, nor does the light separate from them. The light emanates from them with every breath and is cast on every object they see and with their speech it exhibits its luminescence to the audience. This light is called the Ruh-al-Qudus (The Holy Spirit). This is, however, only the reflection of the Real Holy Spirit which resides in Heaven. This reflection of the Holy Spirit resides in the pure hearts and souls forever, and does not separate from them for even a moment.